Welcome back everyone and we hope you managed to stay dry after the wettest winter ever!
Take care walking around the park – many areas are still saturated and slippery. So far this winter it has been very mild, so spring is well on the way with snowdrops over and daffodils in full bloom. The wallflowers will soon be flowering and buds are starting to break on early trees and shrubs. A few more days of spring sunshine and the ground will start to dry out.
It’s hard to remember now, but autumn was actually drier than usual so we were able to get on with some of our winter projects which became more difficult or impossible once the rain started. The Ross Park ‘Arboretum’ project got off to a flying start with some ash trees felled in the dog walking field. We were hoping to get two areas of ash cleared but that plan was a casualty of the weather – the field has been like a bog since Christmas. However we did manage to fell one area; the logs are stacked in the field and as I write this the brashings (smaller branches) are still there too providing excellent cover for wildlife! These will soon be removed – some branches will be moved to the edge of the field, under the trees, creating a useful wildlife habitat, the rest will be shredded for use on the park. Thirteen new trees have been planted – one area of flowering cherries (Prunus species), another of Acers (Japanese maples) and as individual trees, a Sweet Chestnut and a Magnolia. The trees have had their nursery labels left on them for the time being and we plan to get some more permanent labels – so you will be able to identify the trees easily. The flowering cherries will provide a lovely display of blossom in the spring, (maybe not so much this year as they’ve only just been planted) and one of them (Prunus subhirtella Autumnalis) flowers in autumn/winter. The Acers provide a lot of colour throughout the season – interesting colours and leaf shape in the spring and summer and then many of them have amazing autumn colour. So, plenty to look forward to there.
Another major project has been the removal of the golden leylandii hedge at the top of the cul-de-sac, at the entrance to the village. For many years now it has been dying back and not looking its best. Not wanting to compromise the privacy of pitches in the cul-de-sac, we decided to create the wooden ‘planter’ (I say ‘we’ – Mark did most of the work, in the rain and the mud…) to give the hedge instant height. The new hedge is Hawthorn which fits in with the adjacent old Devon hedges; it will be easy to keep neat and trimmed and also provides excellent cover for birds. This year, while the hedge is establishing, we will plant up the base of the hedge with some flowering annuals.
The vegetable garden has had a rest overwinter apart from a few winter crops in the ground. Large quantities of horse manure and home-grown compost were added to the soil in the autumn which helps protect the soil structure over winter and replenishes nutrients and organic matter. We also use green manure crops – mustard and field beans this year - which protect the soil and, in the case of the beans, add nitrogen. Some areas are covered in plastic or old carpet. All these things keep the soil in good shape, particularly when there’s been so much rain, so we can look forward to bumper crops this year! Potatoes are going in, onion setts and broad beans growing well, seeds are being sown… another season begins.